Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Paranormal and a PRIZE!

Today's letter in the monthlong A-Z Challenge is "P". Our guest is Donna MacMeans, talking about Paranomal romance. And one lucky commenter will win a prize! YAY!!

I love paranormal stories. As a child, my favorite fiction book was the Dragons of Blueland - does anyone remember that book?  Unlike the dragons in Game of Thrones (aren’t they cool?), the friendly Blueland dragons had yellow stripes and polkadots. Nothing threatening about that. My older brother read his way through Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom series and as soon as he laid down a book, I’d pick it up. I devoured the stories of an earth man flying across the Martian landscape with a green woman/princess in his airship. I always thought the Nancy Drew books would be improved with a witch or a dragon, or maybe a mystery full of magic. So I come by my love of paranormal naturally.

My very first publishing credit was a paranormal story in the Dream Quest anthology. Smoke and Mirrors dealt with magic and mystery. If my historical story, The Education of Mrs. Brimley, hadn’t changed the direction of my publishing career, I’d be writing paranormals still.

Which is why I’m so thrilled to be able to announce that one of my paranormal stories will be released on Amazon next week. Bound By Moonlight is actually a reissue of an earlier release that won the critic’s choice award in Historical Love and Laughter from the reviewers at Romantic Times. Here’s the blurb:

A woman of extraordinary talents...

Lusinda Havershaw turns invisible in moonlight. Just her - not her clothes. She can’t help it, it just happens. A descendent of a rare race, her ancestors have been burned as witches, persecuted and tormented as the devil’s children. She must be careful to avoid detection. However as her family has no other means of support, she must reluctantly shed her petticoats and corset during a full moon to prowl the gas lit streets of London, stark naked, as a thief.

A man with a dangerous mission...

The only tools British spy and master safecracker James Locke needs are his hands and his brains. But when a hand tremor threatens his mission to secure a list of agents for the Crown, the accidental discovery of a lady thief with an extraordinary secret may just be his salvation. However, as James and Lusinda discover, there’s more than one kind of trouble to be found in the moonlight. The kind that begins with blackmail and ends with a kiss...

Be warned, this is a sexy book in a way that only a story with a naked invisible heroine can be. The hero discovers that just knowing the woman before him is stark naked is more intoxicating than if he could actually see her. I hope you give it a try and if you do, let me know what you think. The lovely thing about releasing this book on Amazon is that I’m free to write a sequel. You’ll have to stay tuned for details.

So tell me, what’s your favorite paranormal romance? I’ll choose someone leaving a comment to receive a copy of THE TROUBLE WITH MOONLIGHT, the original version of my Bound By Moonlight story.

Please check back on Sunday, April 20th, to see if you're the lucky winner of one of Donna's wonderful romances!

For the first four months of the year, Donna is a mild-mannered certified public accountant with a small tax practice. But come April 16th, she rips off the green eyeshade and transform into an impassioned writer of sexy historical romance novels, paranormals and romantic suspense. 
The "P" Book List:
Louise Penny: Canadian-set police procedural series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache
Steven Pressfield: The War of Art. Every writer or artist should have this guide to defeating resistance and creating a plan for success.
J.F. Penn: Crime thrillers with a supernatural edge.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Noir and Neon-Lit Nights...

The letter in today’s A-Z Challenge is “N”. I’m talking about one my favorite genres, noir fiction. ~Kat Sheridan

Dead men are heavier than broken hearts. Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

I like my fiction the way I like my coffee: dark, a little bitter, and best served on a cold, rainy night. Noir, French for “black,” is a literary genre that features a man (always a man), usually a detective, solving a mystery against a backdrop of violence and corruption.

The staple of early pulp fiction, the idea of the hard-boiled detective hero began in the 1920s, during prohibition, with Caroll John Daly’s creation, Race Williams. More followed in his footsteps, most notably Dashiell Hammett with his private detective, Sam Spade, and Raymond Chandler with Philip Marlowe.

The argument can be made that there’s a difference between hard-boiled detective fiction and true noir, but they overlap so much, that most folks, including me, tend to think of them as the same. If a distinction is to be made, it might be in the personality of the detective himself.

John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee or Micky Spillane’s Mike Hammer are hard-boiled seekers of justice, but they have relationships. They have sidekicks and trusted friends, and relationships with women, even if they’re only temporary or unfulfilled.

But men like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe are loners. They’re paladins, cynical, tilting at windmills, strangely romantic, morally ambiguous, and with a more self-destructive personality. The women in their lives either end up dead or betraying them. Same with their friends.

My personal preference is for Raymond Chandler. Both Hammett and Chandler were American-born, but Chandler was raised in England, in “public” schools (what American’s call private schools), and his prose has an elegance and richness that is distinctly different from Hammett’s more terse style. But you couldn’t go wrong with either one.

And of course, there are the noir films, with Humphrey Bogart playing both Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, or Sunset Boulevard, so brilliantly spoofed by Carol Burnett.

I leave you today with a link to my favorite album of classic movie noir music, White Heat: Film Noir. Perfect for a rainy night, a glass of scotch, and lonely detective under the wet neon lights of the mean streets… 

Let’s chat: Are you a fan of crime fiction?  Who’s your favorite detective?

The “N” book list:
Naked Came the Manatee: Thirteen of Florida’s best writers come together (along with their famous characters) to create a hilarious send-up of the noir/crime novel. Like a game of literary telephone, each chapter is written by a different author. Dave Barry kicks it off with a manatee named Booger, and is joined by the likes of John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, and Edna Buchanan.
San Diego Noir: Fifteen of the area’s best writers (including blog friend Lisa Brackmann) come together in this darkly delicious short-story anthology.
Katherine Neville: Complex post-modern thrillers
Image of Humphrey Bogart: By Warner Bros Art (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons


Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for L'Amour: In Praise of French Romance Novels

Today's letter in the A-Z Challenge is "L". Our guest today is Libby McCord, discussing her passion for French-set historical romances. Ooo, la la, l'amour!

I cut my romance reading teeth on a series you may never have heard of:  the Angélique stories by husband and wife writing team Sergeanne Golon, set mostly in France during the mid-17th century. The first, Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels, published in 1956, introduced a beautiful young girl who, over the course of 13 volumes (10 translated into English), experiences more passion and adventures than any other romance heroine I can think of. So I chose “L” to stand for l’amour, the French word for love, and to encourage you to seek out historical love stories set in France. “France?” you say. “No one wants to read historical romance set in France.”

To which I say au contraire my friend. France provides the quintessential setting for stirring passion and intrigue, even if your historical understanding doesn’t go much beyond vague ideas of Versailles and the guillotine. Diana Gabaldon understood this draw—in Dragonfly in Amber, Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser end up at Versailles mid-18th century, and no one quarrels with that setting or its reliance on challenging political history.

Given Gabaldon’s success, why aren’t the Angélique novels better known today?  Well, even though Anne Golon (now a widow) continues to write without husband Serge, many readers simply don’t know about the books. The English translations are out of print, and the stories can be rambling affairs, at times, overwritten by today’s conventions.

So where does one turn?  Fortunately, we have a bestselling romance author who loves complicated historical France and believes it an ideal setting for love stories that transcend impossible odds:  Joanna Bourne. In her Spymaster series, three of the four books are set partly in France (The Spymaster’s Lady, The Forbidden Rose, and The Black Hawk). Reading them, you are plucked from your safe, comfortable couch or coffee shop and dropped squarely into a volatile France where politically star-crossed lovers spy in the shadows as the old societies crumble around them.

When I first discovered Bourne’s books, I devoured each one, just as I had the old Angélique novels. Her first heroine’s name is Annique. I wondered, had Jo Bourne loved those stories, too?  So I asked her.

I loved Angélique,” she told me. “Back in the day, I read them all. A couple are still on my (very small) keeper shelf. I admired the 'historical heft' to these books. The Angélique world is constructed of fierce authenticity—large realities like the intrigues at the palace of Versailles and the wars wrangling across the French countryside. Small realities like the act of lifting a kettle of hot water from the hook over the hearth to set it on the floor with a single, practiced twist of the hand. The solidity is crafted in the detail. It's as if the reader could reach into the book and lay hold of a wine bottle or an apple.”

Constructed of fierce authenticity. Historical heft. I love that. What about you?

By the way, Bourne will have a new book out in November, Rogue Spy. It’s set in London, like her second My Lord and Spymaster, but with plenty of French connections, and, I’m sure, the requisite stirring passion and historical heft.

Let's chat: Do you need more than a soupçon of setting or modicum of manners for your love stories? Do you appreciate a heroine and hero who must navigate perilous political waters where failure means certain death? Do you relish a romance with historical heft?

Libby McCord lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has had a long-standing love affair with all things French, barbershop singing, and Labradors Retrievers. Her story The Spy on the Orléans Road (in progress), pits a Huguenot heroine against the King’s spy in mid-17th century France. Whenever she's not writing or singing, Libby practices law.

The "L" book list: 

Aimee Leduc: quirky, intense private investigator featured in a crime series set in Paris, by author Cara Black. So descriptive, you can almost smell the baguettes and taste the vin rouge.

Elizabeth Loupas: historical fiction. She weaves fictional characters so skillfully with real people, it's hard to tell which is which. From Mary, Queen of Scots to the Medicis, I love her prose.

Paul Levine: His character of lawyer Jake Lassiter is a worthy successor to John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, but a whole lot funnier.

Versaille Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee /

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Just a Number

Today is "J" day in the monthlong A-Z Challenge. Our guest today is author Janie Mason talking about why, when it comes to love, age is Just a number.

Thanks Kat for the invitation. I’m thrilled to be visiting.

Almost everyone’s heard the saying, Love Is Ageless, right? Perhaps whoever brought it into everyday use was referring more to an epoch or era, but I believe it also applies to couples. And I’ll say up front, I’m talking about the emotion of love. There have been stories on the internet about elderly couples so devoted that they pass away within days of each other. And every Sunday in my local newspaper there are photos of couples celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries. Fifty, sixty, even seventy years of loving one another.

I’ve heard it said numerous times that women who read romance often put themselves in the place of the story’s heroine. I’ve done it. And yes, I’d rather imagine myself a twenty-three year old who wears a size four. (After all it’s fiction) But I’m not ashamed to say that I’m into my fifth decade and yet my husband and I are just as much in love as we were in our twenties. Correct that; more so.

My latest release, Worth the Wait, features a middle-aged hero and heroine (not the most flattering descriptor, I admit). Looking back, I didn’t intentionally set out to write about a couple closer to my own age. The hero simply appeared on the page organically, as a secondary character in Redhead Blitz. But the deeper I went into that story, the more I knew his relationship with the love of his life would encompass the last story in The Greenville Girls series.

And Sia, I hope you’re feeling better and stronger each day.
Let's chat: So, what do you think? Are you only interested in romance novels featuring twenty-somethings or are you open to reading romances about heroes and heroines who need two boxes of candles for their birthday cakes?

Janie enjoys her retro convertible Mustang and brand new motor scooter in Central Ohio, along with her very supportive husband, two college-aged kids, and a big loveable fuzzball of a dog named Bonnie.
High-school athletic director Al Matthews is as alpha as they come. But when his administrative assistant, widow Annie Marcum, confesses that she's in love with him, then quits and disappears, he'll do anything to track her down and win back her heart. The books in The Greenville Girls series are:  Servicing Rafferty, Redhead Blitz ,and Worth the Wait. For more information’s about Janie, check out her web site at
The "J" book list:
Josiah's Treasure by Nancy Herriman: Inspirational (clean) romance set in 1882 San Francisco. I also loved her other book, also an inspy, The Irish Healer.
John D. MacDonald: prolific writer of pulp fiction. Though his novels are noir-ish in tone, his best known hero, Travis McGee, is too much of a solid good guy to be an actual noir hero. Still, his novels are addictive.
Jayne Castle: Futuristic romances set in a near-Earth look alike, with sci-fi/paranormal elements. Also writes as Jayne Ann Krentz (contemporary romance) and Amanda Quick (historical romance).
Jennifer Ashley: The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. Historical romance. Gotta love a hero who's spent time in an insane asylum.
Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young /

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Harlequin and a BONUS Manuscript Submission Opportunity!

Every avid romance reader at one time or another has read Harlequin, the grande dame of the romance genre. With dozens of categories, they’ve been the launch pad for hundreds of today’s biggest romance writers. Our guest today is Robin Gianna, talking about her own debut with Harlequin’s Medical Romance line. BONUS: Want to write for Harlequin? We also have exciting news about a manuscript submission opportunity for you!

Hello, All! I’m happy to say I’m a newbie Harlequin author. My first Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance came out in January, and my second one was released this month. It’s been a thrilling, crazy ride! 

If you’ve been submitting to Harlequin, wanting to break into one of their series lines, you know it’s very competitive out there! I decided to take advantage of one of the events periodically held inviting submissions, and I also decided to increase my odds by focusing on a line I knew was actively looking for new authors.

If you don’t have a medical background, it might never have occurred to you to look at the medical romance line. Admittedly, my hubby is a doctor, so I do have a built in consultant! But to be honest, I have asked questions of others as much as I have him, and I’ve also found great stuff online. The stories still focus on the romance and development of the characters through the story, they’re just set in a medical background, which can be anything and anywhere. My first two books both take place in fictional mission hospitals in West Africa. I decided on that setting because I wanted to stand out from the crowd of submissions, but chose a traditional romance trope—the secret baby—so it wouldn’t be too ‘out there.’ I guess it worked, because I sold from that submission! And that January release is still selling in the top twenty of medical romances right now.

 And now, the BONUS!!!

Harlequin Mills & Boon is again conducting an author search, and this one is even faster than the ‘fast track’ I sold through!  Here’s a link to the event, which goes on through April 24th.

You can read about me and other new authors who have sold through prior fast track events at

If writing for Harlequin is something you want, I so hope it happens for you! Think about the medical line. And if you have any questions, you can contact me via email: or Facebook, or my website 

Let's chat:

Which of the Harlequin series lines are your favorites to read? Have you ever read a medical romance? Which lines have you submitted to in the past, and why?

The Last Temptation of Dr. Dalton

When cool, collected hospital director Charlotte Edwards throws caution to the wind for one hot, reckless night with Dr. Trent Dalton she has no idea it’s going to backfire on her so spectacularly—because the next morning she has to bury her pride and ask for his help!

Trent shouldn’t mix business with please...again!  But Charlotte is a delicious temptation he just can’t resist.  Yet when Trent finds out she’s been keeping him around under false pretenses he might just have to teach this little minx a passion!

After completing a degree in journalism, working in the advertising industry, then becoming a stay-at-home mom, Robin Gianna had what she likes to call her ‘awakening’, deciding to write the romance novels she'd loved since her teens. Robin loves pushing her characters toward their own happily-ever-afters! When she's not writing, Robin's life is filled with a happily messy kitchen, a needy garden, a wonderful husband, three great kids, a drooling bulldog and one grouchy Siamese cat.


The "H" list of Books
Kay Hooper: psychological detective investigation/suspense with a horror twist. You'll be sleeping with the lights on for a few days.
Karen Harper: romance in every flavor, from Amish to well-researched historical fiction.
Harry Potter: hero of the famed boy wizard series. I devoured the series like it was Skittles.
Dashiell Hammet: hard-boiled detective noir. You'll be hearing more about my love for this author on the 16th when I write about "N is for Noir".
Heartbeat Image courtesy of digitalart /


Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for Fairy Tales

Today’s letter in the month long A-Z challenge is F. (No, we’re not going there! Get your mind out of the gutter, people. LOL!) Our guest today is Oberon Wonch, lover of Medieval romance, Renaissance Faires, fairy tales, gardening, and a soon-to-be-published romance author.

F is for Fairy tales, those magical stories we all heard growing up, the ones that feature youngest sons, princesses, cruel stepmothers, and talking animals. The stories where good triumphs over evil and an honest knight or virtuous princess earns a blissful happy ending. 

Scholars who like to debate this sort of thing actually don’t agree on what exactly distinguishes a fairy tale from other folk tales. Though most agree an actual fairy needn’t be involved, they dispute whether magic is an integral part of a fairy tale and whether some form of mythical being—goblins or giants, for example—must be included. Despite the arguments, several motifs are common: a handsome prince, a beautiful maiden, a fantastic location such as a castle or a beanstalk that climbs to the clouds.

Though stories resembling what we identify today as fairy tales go back thousands of years, the term fairy tale was first coined in the 17th century by Countess d’Aulnoy. She compiled anthologies of French folk tales meant to be discussed by adults in Parisian salons. Gathering her stories from nursemaids and other laboring class women who told stories to children, she emphasized the magical elements in such tales and built up the motif of strong female characters who prevail over evil stepmothers and overbearing royal fathers. (Perhaps because those were the subjects that appealed most to her fellow salon-goers.)

One thing that seems to be a modern invention is the idea of a happily ever after. This might be attributed to the Brothers Grimm, who in the early 19th century recorded on paper many German folk tales from oral tradition. Hoping to market their books as family-friendly but finding the stories too gruesome for children, they took the liberty of cleaning up the tales. Stabilized through printing, their versions have become the standard in cultures of English descent.

Did you know Hans Christian Andersen mostly wrote new stories rather than relayed traditional fairy tales? He employed some familiar motifs, but the characters and plots were all his. Eloisa James did a series of historical romances where each book was founded upon a fairy tale. When Beauty Tamed the Beast was my favorite.

Let's chat: What are your favorite fairy tales, the ones that resonate with you? Do you recognize the fairy tales in your nodern reading?

A two-time Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist in Historical Romance, Oberon Wonch writes passionate tales about heroes, both modern and medieval, winning the hearts of their lady loves. Visit her at or her gardening blog at

The "F" book list:

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley: historical fiction, paranormal, romance all in one. I love just about everything this author writes.

Judi Fennell: lighthearted romance. Her early works are paranormal romance, and now she's coming out with contemporary romantic comedies about a group of brothers working as housemaids!

Firefly: Graphic novels, multiple authors/artist. The comic-book continuation of the beloved television space opera series that, like most of Joss Whedon's stuff, died a tragic and far-too-early death. They live on in these. Start with this one. 

Images: The Frog Prince y Anne Anderson (1874-1930) ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Red Riding Hood: By Charles Perrault, Harry Clarke (ill.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Dwarves - In praise of Fanfiction

Before we move on to our guest today, I'd like to take a moment to send my heartfelt prayers and thoughts out to a blogging friend, Natalie Aguirre, and her family. Natalie lost her husband, Rudy, this past weekend. There are no words of comfort I can give to take away the pain of such a loss. Know that if there were, I'd gladly offer them. May peace and love hold you close, Natalie. ~Sia~


Our guest today is Saralee Etter. Although she's a published romance author, her not-so-secret crush is on Thorin Oakenshield, a dwarf in the Hobbit books (actually, it's on Richard Armitage!) She's also a fanfiction author.

So there’s this new movie trilogy based on JRR Tolkien’s beloved children’s book, “The Hobbit.” So far, two of the three installments have been released, and they’ve been popular around the world.

Some of the biggest attractions of the Hobbit are the “hot dwarves.” These fellows aren’t the squat, hairy, cantankerous little miners of Snow White. They’re badass warriors with rough charm to spare.  There are three main objects of fan adoration: the majestic leader of the company, Thorin Oakenshield, played by British actor Richard Armitage, and his two nephews, Fili and Kili, played by Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner respectively.

One of the ways fans have shown their appreciation is by writing fanfiction – stories that take these characters and send them on new adventures, exploring who they are and what could have been.

If you’ve ever finished a story and wished it hadn’t ended, fanfiction is the answer to your wish. People who write fanfiction are your fellow yearners, those who wanted to know what happened next, or what might have been. They are writers with fire in their bellies and an unquenchable desire to share their story with the world, and they do it for no other reason than that they are in love with a story.

This means that fanfiction works, in my opinion, tend to have an enthusiasm and vitality that’s sometimes lacking in works created by professional writers. Fanfic writers may not always have the technical expertise but they’ve got excitement to spare.

Fanfiction has been around longer than you might think, according to this post from Tumblr, written by someone who identifies themselves as a professor of literature:

Most of the history of Western literature (and probably much of non-Western literature, but I can’t speak to that) is adapted or appropriated from something else. Homer wrote historyfic and Virgil wrote Homerfic and Dante wrote Virgilfic (where he makes himself a character and writes himself hanging out with Homer and Virgil and they’re like “OMG Dante you’re so cool.” He was the original Gary Stu). ….

Shakespeare doesn’t have a single original plot—although much of it would be more rightly termed RPF—and then John Fletcher and Mary Cowden Clarke and Gloria Naylor and Jane Smiley and Stephen Sondheim wrote Shakespeare fanfic. Guys like Pope and Dryden took old narratives and rewrote them to make fun of people they didn’t like, because the eighteenth century was basically high school. And Spenser! Don’t even get me started on Spenser.

(Note: RPF stands for “Real People Fiction,” which is just what it says on the tin. Tom Clancy added a bit of RPF to his novel Patriot Games when he had Jack Ryan give marital advice to the Prince of Wales.)
Now, two years after the first installment of the trilogy came out, The Hobbit has inspired more than 10,000 works of fanfiction on An Archive of Our Own (AO3) and 6,400 fanfiction works on (
And impressive as the numbers of Hobbit-related stories is, there are other fandoms with more: The Harry Potter series has inspired 678,000 stories and the Twilight saga has spawned 216,000 fanfiction works on The TV show Supernatural has given rise to 66,000 fanfics on AO3.
Those are some of the big fandoms, but there are fan-written stories that celebrate and explore a wide variety of works, from Arthurian legends to Phantom of the Opera, Sherlock Holmes to video games, anime and manga, Pride and Prejudice, A Song of Ice and Fire, Gone With The Wind, and many more. Browsing the fandoms on both sites can provide you with an idea of what is out there for your reading pleasure.
If you’re looking for new stories to read, why not explore the world of fanfiction? You might find some delightful new tales that feature your favorite characters!

Let's chat: Have you ever read fanfiction? Written it? What book or movie might inspire you to read or write fanfiction?

Miranda Luce expected to make her debut at Almack’s, but when her father’s death leaves her penniless, she becomes an actress. But when her brother-in-law is wrongly arrested, it’s up to Miranda to  help him. Lord Justin Devereux is desperate for a fiancée in order to take control of his inheritance. Hiring an actress as a faux fiancée seems like a good plan. But neither Miranda nor Justin expected their pretend engagement to lead to true love…
Saralee's fanfiction:
When Thorin Met Tauriel (M/F, general)

Dwalin and the Pearl (M/F, mature)

It Takes a Thief (M/M, explicit)

Saralee Etter loves to read and always knew writing was the only career for her. Her lighthearted, fun, Regency romances are the perfect way for her to combine her love of history, romance, and adventure! She also writes fanfiction.

The "D" Books and Authors List:

Dan Brown: Love him or hate him, he sells millions of action thrillers and never fails to engender a strong reaction. Put me in the "fan" camp.

David Sedaris: Non-fiction, some of the best humor I've ever read. Holidays On Ice is a favorite.

Dresden Files by Jim Butcher: A wizard for the grown ups. The audio versions are great!

Damon Runyon: The book Guys and Dolls is nothing like the movie, but the toe-tapping, syncopated rhythm of his writing will throw your speech patterns off for days!

Images courtesy of